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Travelogue A16

May 26, 2014

At some point in the course of the day, I lost myself in a maze of sidestreets in one northerly residential corner or other of the city. As I attempted to curve my way back towards the south and over the canals, I paused before an empty facade to inspect what appeared to be an unusual squatting situation. I emphasise the word “facade”, for that was truly all that remained of the building once occupying the spot. I pressed myself against the barrier laid across the gaping window and gaped at the interior where, across the surviving black and white tiles of the former floor, some unseen gardener had set up an garden in which each plant and pot were marked by a handwritten sign indicating the species and variety. From my position in the street, I could see that potted herbs and fruits, flowers and vegetables filled the one-time front room and snaked back around an interior wall still standing and continued on into the depths of the partially demolished home. The door was a barred by a chained and padlocked fence of some kind, so my inspection no further.

In fact, it quite recalled a similar squat that I had found in Brussels, next to the few surviving structures of the old botanical garden and zoo. There, the tenants had erected pavilions and water gardens, compost heaps and makeshift sheds in which to keep the implements to carry out their reclamation of this place. So it was that the present sight and past memory planted in my head a seed of sorts, and in it I witnessed emptying of house and home and subsequent spread of squats in the form of gardens and outdoors projects as the city was dismantled and returned parcel by parcel to the nature from which it had sprung. Here was where the cult of difference pushes back at that of repetition in Bruges and breaks up the even brick facades with the greenery of the sudden garden.

It was with a hint of sadness that I regained civilisation and found my way to the Groeninge Museum.

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